Bud Norris came off the DL recently to make his first start tonight since June 21st. He looked pretty rusty to start the game, although only because he had been pitching really well before his injury. His line of 4 IP, 6 H, 2 HR, 5 ER, BB, 2 SO would not have looked out of place last year, but in 2014 it stands out as a poor start.
With one out in the first, the Nationals rattled off three straight hits to plate two runs. Granted, the second run only scored because Nick Markakis lamely approached Adam LaRoche’s single and made a weak, late throw that let Jayson Werth race around third and score. Had Nick raced to the ball and come up firing, Werth would’ve been held at third or been out at the plate.
The Nationals’ third and fourth runs left no such doubt, though. In the top of the second, Wilson Ramos homered and in the top of the fourth, Ian Desmond also sent one over the wall. These were both solo shots, but they proved that Norris wasn’t at his best. He left after 71 pitches when in the fifth, he walked number nine hitter Danny Espinosa and allowed a hard-hit single to Denard Span that Jonathan Schoop couldn't handle. I suspect that Norris's early exit was the result of him being on a pitch count limit, but he didn't help matters by not pitching well.
The Orioles' offense managed seven hits tonight but could push only a few across. In the bottom of the first, Chris Davis singled home Steve Pearce for the O’s first run of the game. It was the first knock of a two-hit night for Davis, but unfortunately he also came up short in the third, when O's had runners on second and third with two outs. Nationals starter Doug Fister had hit Nick Markakis to start the inning and struck out Steve Pearce. But Adam Jones singled, and then Nelson Cruz grounded out which advanced both runners. The score was 3-1 at the time, so a run would’ve been huge. But Davis flew out to end the threat, and then Desmond hit the dinger to make it 4-1. Manny Machado did answer with a solo shot of his own though, cutting it to 4-2.
The Nationals got their fifth run in the 5th, when LaRoche hit a sacrifice fly off Brad Brach to score Danny Espinosa, whom Norris had walked. Brach pitched 2.2 effective innings, allowing only a solo shot to Jayson Werth that made it 6-2. That dinger caused Buck to bring in Brian Matusz, who shocked fans everywhere by retiring the next seven batters in order, including several righties.
Meanwhile, the Orioles misssed another good opportunity to score. Davis led off the bottom of the sixth with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch to J.J. Hardy, who struck out. Machado then singled to complete his three-hit night, which moved Davis to third. Caleb Joseph then smashed a ball that reached third baseman Anthony Rendon on a weird in-between hop. Somehow Rendon got a glove on it and was able to start the double play that ended the inning. (Baltimore fans call this "pulling a Machado.") It was a frustrating end to the mini-rally, but sometimes you have to tip your cap. The Orioles would not get another baserunner in the game.
The loss drops the Orioles to 49-41, while the Nationals rise to 49-40. The Blue Jays also lost today, so the Orioles remain 2.5 games ahead in the AL East. Tomorrow’s match-up pits Wei-Yin Chen against Gio Gonzalez.